Dave Franco makes his directorial debut with a solid cast in a mediocre horror thriller. The Rental (2020) introduces Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Mina (Sheila Vand) as they are browsing possible getaway locations. They seem like a very happy couple until Josh (Jeremy Allen White), Charlie’s brother and Mina’s boyfriend, shows up, and it’s revealed that Charlie and Mina are business partners on the brink of a major success. It’s also revealed that this couple and Charlie’s wife, Michelle (Alison Brie), will be staying at a rental property for a lovely weekend.
The overall tone of the film never quite builds the tension. The guy who rents the property – Taylor (Toby Huss) – is indicated to be racist, as Mina initially attempted to reserve the property and was denied only for Charlie to get it. This feels more like lip service, and never really manifests into anything more than superficial mistrust in the property owner. When the film wants to make the audience feel that someone may be watching the group, it never feels truly earned.
The first half of the film is enjoyable enough because the cast and characters they play feel lived in. However, the plot of the film feels underdeveloped, and the ending is anti-climactic. In some ways, it seems the story wants to shock you with the direction it goes – but it just feels half-baked instead. It’s almost like the film started off as a drama, and at some point, they decided to make it a horror film instead.
The Rental isn’t a horrible debut…but it isn’t one that stands out, either. There are some flaws that simply make the movie forgettable in the end…especially the end. Use this film as another example of why Dan Stevens needs to be cast in more things. The Rental earns the Not a Total Waste of Time.